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The top 6 apps entrepreneurs need to improve productivity


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The top 6 apps entrepreneurs need to improve productivity

Staying productive isn’t easy. Especially when so many of us are bombarded with a steady stream of notifications, breaking news and emails every day. Is it really any surprise that overall productivity is on steady decline these days?

It can be difficult for even the most dedicated worker to stay on track in the face of so many distractions, but for entrepreneurs — who are expected to juggle multiple responsibilities alongside financial pressures and few resources — staying productive can be an almost hellish task.

If you’re looking for ways to combat distractions and improve your work efficiency, here’s a list of the most popular (and little known) apps that will change how you work for the better.

Awesome Screenshot

For developers and designers, it can be hard keeping track of the minute changes that seem to crop up on a daily basis. Projects that require group input often involve sending blueprints or mockups to group members that can end up clogging up inboxes or, in some cases, being ignored entirely.

Awesome Screenshot has found a way to get around that problem using its unique software that lets individuals snap a picture of a project that colleagues can then use to add comments, edits and even blur out sensitive information. These images are saved to an external database, saving crucial email data and giving internal team members or clients a chance to review documents at their leisure.
Where to get it: Find it online and Google Play


This fairly new plugin may not be widely known, but is definitely an app designed with entrepreneurs in mind. The platform turns your Gmail account into a powerful tool that lets any team member process sales, track product development and group customers into custom boxes to make it easier to contact and analyze.

Its free email templates and in-depth reporting function make it a great system for startups with limited funds.
Where to get it: Find it on the Apple store and Google PlayMove — daily activity reminder

Taking the time to maintain physical health is important. While most apps concentrate on ways to better manage our time, it’s been proven that physical activity can not only increase productivity, but provide long-term mental health benefits.

One of the easiest ways for entrepreneurs glued to their computers to fit in some daily exercise is to take walks. The iPhone app will remind you to take regular, active breaks throughout the day and record your progress over time. It also plays double duty as a gym buddy that features over 300 fitness exercises and the ability to create your own custom circuit training.

For Android users, an app called ‘Move It’ offers up many of the same features listed above with the added option to sync it with Google Fit to provide better step data and calorie counting.
Where to get it: Move: Find it on the Apple store and online. Move it: Google Play store

Have you ever had a great, life-altering idea pop into your head, but forget it because you didn’t have some way to write it down?
Well, Evernote may be able to help fix this annoying problem. The free platform helps users work smarter by letting them create customized to-do lists, upload notes from their mobile device, which can be shared with other users, and even craft personalized audio checklists.
Where to get it: It’s available via the Apple store, Google Play Store and online.


Asana is the swiss army knife of online management tools. This oddly named application helps you manage tasks, oversee work projects from shared dashboards and track conversations all in one place.

It also allows you to collaborate with team members, assign tasks and schedule due dates so colleagues know exactly what to do and when to do it. Track progress on shared projects and chat about updates with other members all in one place so you can finally ditch those never-ending email chains for good.
Where to get it: Get Asana by going on the web, from the App store & Google Play Store.

Expensify (tracking expenses)

Keeping track of your employees’ financial statements and your receipts can be headache inducing, but Expensify wants to be the antidote to your money woes.

The app’s algorithms not only analyze company expenses in real-time to combat fraud,but also detect which items need an extra pair of eyeballs, such as managerial approval, if the purchase is sensitive in nature or exceeds set company limits. Expensify’s SmartScan features allow users to take pictures of receipts while on the road that are then automatically uploaded and saved indefinitely.

The best part is that it can be integrated with financial products offered by firms like QuickBooks (small business accounting platform), Zenefits (HR management software) and Xero (a data management software company).
Where to get it: Find it online, the iTunes store or Google’s app store.  

4 must-read books for every entrepreneur this summer

If you’re looking for a great read for your next commute, something to ease your time in between flights or just a book to unwind with you on your next summer vacation, these page turners are sure to inspire and entertain.

No one said being an entrepreneur is easy, but with the right advice (and book) the possibilities are endless. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or aspiring business owner, there’s something you can learn from this reading list, which is complete with tips, lessons and facts from the most successful business owners in the world.

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

After spending years interviewing celebrities and successful entrepreneurs for his self-titled podcast, Tim Ferriss finally decided to write a candid (and at times somewhat provocative) book about it all. The self-help guide combines the best lessons, tips and advice and routines into an easily accessible read.

Some of the most prominent names included in this tell-it-like-it-is story include Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger and top investor Chris Sacca. Although, Ferriss is no slouch either: The well-known entrepreneur is an early-stage technology investor and advisor for Silicon Valley heavyweights, such as Uber, Facebook and Shopify.

Why you should read this book: What sets this book apart? It’s an all encompassing toolkit full of tricks, recommendations, strategies and philosophies from some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Bonus: At 707 pages, it’s a nice, quick read. Get it on Amazon while you still can.

Unshakeable by Tony Robbins

By all measures, Tony Robbins didn’t have a very pleasant nor easy upbringing. An absent father and abusive mother meant the motivational speaker grew up in what he describes as a “chaotic” and “abusive” household.

Despite skipping college and, a couple of lost years spent working as a part-time janitor, he later went on to launch a successful self-help business and work as a coach, businessman and New York Times bestselling author.

His latest book called Unshakeable is a summary of interviews with 50 of the world’s most successful investors and full of great nuggets about what entrepreneurs should do when things go wrong. Fighting off bankruptcy? Not sure how to boost market share? Struggling to hold on to investment opportunities? Then this condensed read is for you.

Why you should read this book: Robbins knows his stuff. The NYT-bestselling author is the author of over six books and throughout his life has founded over a dozen companies. If you’re looking for ways to stay sane in the non-stop world of business or just hoping for lifestyle tips this it. Buy Unshakeable from Chapters-Indigo here.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

A winning social media account is more than just developing high quality content, but also adapting it to several platforms and mobile devices. This book has some strong ideas that organizations must adapt as part of their social media strategy such as content placement, telling a cohesive story and focusing on benefits rather than selling. “It took thirty-eight years before 50 million people gained access to radios. It took television thirteen years to earn an audience that size. It took Instagram a year and a half,” Vaynerchuk says in his book. It also focuses on the importance of driving engagement with an audience and finding opportunities to build communities, which in turn, strengthens your brand. Buy it on Amazon here.

Why you should read this book: Skip all the ridiculous startup jargon and buzzwords and get straight to the point with Vaynerchuk’s fight-inspired tome. The venture capitalist — named to both Crain’s and Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list — knows what he’s talking about and has the insights necessary to take to turn any organization into a well-oiled, money-making machine. Find this must-read here.

Success never Smelled So Sweet by Lisa Price

From bankruptcy to successful entrepreneur, Lisa Price shares her story of how passion created “Carol’s Daughter,” a luxurious, all-natural line of bath and beauty products. With only $100 in cash, Lisa started following not only her heart, but her nose, as she started creating sweet scents that celebrities such as Jay-Z, Solange, Halle Berry and Mary J.Blige support and use religiously.

In the book, she walks the reader through her childhood with stories of her Trinidadian grandmother and a harsh school system where she was bullied. Her story is a reminder that success is attainable even when life throws many obstacles in the way. Currently, the company is valued at $27 million and was acquired by L’Oreal in 2014. From life advice to business tips, this is a light summer read with an extra dose of motivation. Regardless if it’s a morning commute or sunny day outside, this is your perfect summer-time read, grab it, here.

Why you should read this book: A good success story can be inspirational for anyone trying to find their path to success, especially when the author is now a multi-millionaire. As a young black woman in financial straits, Price’s story is encouraging and engaging as it reminds you to keep persevering. Get your hands on Price’s guide for success from Amazon.

Is your startup prepared for a PR crisis?

The startup world is no stranger to scandal.

Silicon Valley is riddled with the remains of startups and companies forced to close their doors after falling prey to scandal. This year a series of well-known companies have landed in hot water for everything ranging from sexual harassment allegations to discrimination claims.

So, why does this keep happening in tech? The answer is fairly simple: Fast-growing businesses are more likely to prioritize product over crisis communication plans since the former provides immediate returns. It’s kinda hard to showcase the benefits of a communication crisis plan when there’s no crisis on hand.

Fortunately, there are some easy things startups can do to get ahead of any potential problems. Here are three easy steps early-stage companies can follow courtesy of Erin Richards, a former public relations officer for CBC and founder of communications firm Hype PR.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

For startups on a shoestring budget, time is a valuable resource that’s always in short supply. It’s easy to see why some would rather spend time networking instead of creating an in-depth framework for future issues that, technically, may never arrive.

As much as it might make sense to avoid all things PR related Richards believes it’s a bad idea. To combat any possible negative publicity entrepreneurs should invest in creating a strong brand before missteps occur in order to develop a trove of goodwill that can be leveraged to diffuse bad situations and grow the business.

“Most people don’t understand that public perception is a huge part of a brand narrative and story, and if those elements aren’t figured out, the media relations strategy is likely to fall flat.”

Creating long-lasting buzz isn’t an easy task, but entrepreneurs hoping to generate a positive public perception must focus their efforts on giving back to their community on a regular basis. This includes having team members volunteer to speak at conferences or community events to build good will. Local nonprofits and community organizations are always looking for guests to help teach and knowledgable experts are always in demand

Constantly Monitor Your Brand

Keeping tabs on how your brand grows and changes over time isn’t easy. It requires a lot of hard work, tons of follow-up and a keen eye that can easily differentiate between spam and important data, which is likely why most companies hire outside firms to perform this task.

Finding problems before they mushroom into bigger ones is an effective way to manage communication tragedies.

Companies need to be proactive and constantly be diligent. If they can’t afford to hire an outside team to monitor their brand they should make sure an individual is tasked with doing basic searches all the time.  Simply enlist someone on their team to monitor social media and online channels for news.

“They should have someone on the team allocated to the role of social and traditional media monitoring to ensure they are on top of any potential brand related issues that may arise,” Richards adds. “They could also look into having an independent consultant develop a PR plan and strategy that they could attempt to execute internally.”

Here are a few social media companies that startups can use to help find out if they’re being discussed online:

Twitter: Companies can use Twitter’s advanced search buttons to look for specific sentences, names and dates.

Facebook: It can be a little trickier for startups to find mentions of their brand on Facebook since many users take advantage of the social media company’s privacy settings.

Google: Getting alerts about when and if your company is mentioned online can be as simple as setting up a Google account. This platform doesn’t include social media platforms but does extend to blogs, news and websites.

Teach Your Team How to Interact With the Brand

For good or bad, founders are the de facto representative for their company. A startup can rise and fall based on the actions of a founding team member or staff. Teaching startup teams how to interact with customers online is vital, even when their “off the clock” or on their down time.

They need to remain professional at all times since now-a-days one embarrassing moment is merely a screengrab or email forward away from becoming PR nightmare.

“Once you become an entrepreneur, you become synonymous with your brand. Entrepreneurs should seek out mentors in the industry to help them network, grow and evolve and also look into how public figures they admire conduct themselves in public and in the media. Of course, there are also the obvious ones such as, watching the alcohol intake at professional events and avoiding weighing in publicly on potentially contentious issues.”


Life lessons: Confessions from an entrepreneur who sold his startup

Life after an acquisition can be complicated.

For most founders, the possibility of landing a big exit is a good thing. It usually means a decent amount of cash and, in most cases, the chance to stick around as an employee or consultant long after the contract ink has dried.

While some end up missing the hustle and bustle of entrepreneurship, many find that working at a big company—after years of living the startup life—gives them time to regroup and tap into resources they could only have dreamed of when they were going at it alone.

No matter the outcome, the decision to sell a company can be an intensely personal and a difficult one to make. Robleh Jama, DMZ alumni and founder of Toronto-based app studio Tiny Hearts, knows the process all too well. The entrepreneur’s startup was purchased by Shopify in 2016.

After the buyout he and a few of his colleagues stayed on to join Shopify’s special project department where they now make experimental apps for new audiences. At the time of Tiny Hearts’ acquisition, Jama’s small, yet thriving, company had nine full-time employees and three part-time associates.

Before Shopify approached him about a potential acquisition he had never really considered selling the business. “It wasn’t really an idea I thought about,” he says.

His plan was to always grow with the company long into the future but as time went on, he noticed that scaling it would take more resources than his team had at their disposal. Shopify—an Ottawa-based company with offices in Toronto, Montreal, Waterloo and San Francisco—had connections around the globe to push his ideas to the next level.

“The acquisition was very organic,” he said. “[Shopify and Tiny Hearts] started off as a working relationship first and then grew from there. It was the best way to do it.”

Not everyone will find themselves in the same situation as Jama, but there’s nonetheless a few crucial things entrepreneurs should understand before taking an all-out company buyout, he explains.

Here’s his advice for entrepreneurs considering an exit and what they should know before signing on the dotted line.

Get your company ready by doing good work

A big payoff should never be the end goal for any entrepreneur, but if you’re looking to partner with or be acquired by another company you should make sure to create something of value on a regular basis, he says.

“It all starts with and ends with producing great work,” he explains. “You’ve got to think what value does a company want or look for. It’s better to think about it that way instead of reverse engineering an acquisition. That won’t work,” he explains.

At Tiny Hearts, creating great products meant making sure his company always stayed on top of new trends in the mobile industry and applied them whenever possible to upcoming projects. It also helped Jama, he admits, that he was personally invested in learning as much as he could about mobile-based applications in his free time.

Another piece of advice? Make sure to network with as many people in your industry as you can and stay grateful. “We met people at the DMZ that are still friends of mine to this very day and connected me with other people in the field.”

Wait for the right partner

Just because a company makes an offer doesn’t mean you have to take it, he explains.

Jama and his team worked with Shopify on several projects beforehand and were well acquainted with the company’s products and, more importantly, how they could help each other elevate the work they were already creating.

He also knew how he would personally fit into its company culture as an employee. A fact that he says founders shouldn’t be too quick to overlook. “I knew what they were like. I don’t think I could work at a company that wasn’t Shopify. I was looking to level up and learn to build products at scale and they were the ones that could do it.”

Not to mention that he’s also happy with the work he’s doing. Any role you or your team take on post-acquisition should be discussed in detail before any contracts are signed, he explains.

“Working at Shopify is like a honeymoon that doesn’t end because the team I work with is autonomous and doing what we used to do at Tiny Hearts—pumping out mobile products. We’ve been given the resources to do what we’re most passionate about so we can just focus on creating  innovative and experimental products.”

Seek out legal help ahead of time

There’s no shame in asking for help, especially if it involves money. Exits can mean a host of new problems, which can sometimes include doling out money or company shares to employees and should be taken seriously.

The best thing for companies to do is find someone who can help lay everything out in black and white and take emotions out of the picture, he says. “Find someone you trust and go from there.”

Last, but not least: Do your homework

Jama and Shopify executives made sure the buyout process went slowly. It took almost a year between initial talks to a contract signing.

“The idea was floated, casually, when we started working together, but we didn’t want to rush into. We said let’s continue to work together to see how it goes. After we worked with the team on an app called Frenzy we realized that Shopify was what Tiny Hearts could become if it were on steroids and were on board.”

Luckily over the years Shopify had acquired several local companies before Tiny Hearts, which made the process that much easier for Jama and his team. “Shopify had done this a handful of times of times so they made the process super smooth from the conversation to getting the deal done to transitioning, but we made sure to talk to people [clients, staff, industry professionals].”

How the DMZ is helping Toronto startups crack the U.S. market

For Canadian entrepreneur Ami Shah finding a space in New York City to call home while she networked with local business leaders and pounded the pavement in town was never really an option. Sky-high office fees, a weak loonie and the city’s competitive rental market meant finding something long-term was almost impossible.

When she and her team would travel to Silicon Alley they would have no choice but to work out of crowded coffee shops. In most cases hopping from one table to another in an effort to find a working outlet or in some cases just huddling around a computer, often with luggage in tow, trying to broker deals or hold conference calls.

“It was a nightmare,” the successful co-founder of education software company Peekapak explains. “I was always moving between coffee shops; buying just enough coffee so I could use their Wi-Fi. Have you ever had to rely on a coffee shop to livestream a meeting while someone in the background blends coffee or yells on the phone beside you? It’s not good.”

In the past, a lack of office space was a headache-inducing barrier for Canadian entrepreneurs, like Shah, looking to put down roots in the U. S. or dip their toe in an international market close to home. But all that will soon change. As part of a collaboration between the DMZ and Primary, a New York-based coworking office, entrepreneurs affiliated with the DMZ accelerator or its network of partners across the country will get 10 desks on site to use in NYC anytime, free of charge.


Companies that apply and chosen to take part in the program will get access to desks at Primary’s 25,000 square foot facility in lower Manhattan and a combination of wellness and startup services, like free fitness classes, tickets to weekly in-house events, private offices and concierge services. DMZ startups will get up to four free months and non-DMZ companies up to 30 days.

Such a collaboration will open up huge doors for Canadians in the booming city and give entrepreneurs a chance to make vital connections with local talent, broaden their investor pool and, more importantly, meet future clients.

For a successful entrepreneur like Shah, this space’s real value lies in its strategic location and it’s not hard to see why. The city is already home to several venture capital firms—attracted by the city’s booming tech industry—and headquarters for educational companies like Scholastic and Pearson, an education and publishing company.

The DMZ news also couldn’t come at a more fortuitous time for her. Peekapak left the DMZ in June for a brand new office in Toronto’s west end and earlier this year was invited to attend an influential meet-and-greet in New York City with the city’s local tech influencers. Cementing any relationships she’s made at the event will take time and a dedicated place where she can bring potential clients will help.

The upside of having a DMZ-branded office in New York isn’t lost on Addo Smajic, co-founder of Reportin either. He plans to take advantage of the Primary’s offerings later this summer.

In fact, the entrepreneur, who counts Microsoft and Google as startup supporters, is already well acquainted with how important the New York scene can be for a startup’s prospects. He’s made valuable connections during his time in the U.S., met investors that back his products and even managed to finagle his way into getting his very own 2-1-2 area code.

 “You have to put in the work to be an entrepreneur, but you also have to be in the right spot as well,” he says. “This, the DMZ, will put you in the right spot.”

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